Psalm 23:2 – He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
As sheep, we are free to chose our shepherd, the one that leads us and the one that we willingly follow. For it is the shepherd that is responsible for the care, feeding, health and protection of his flock. That task of shepherding is cumbersome and requires a vigiliant shepherd, otherwise the sheep and the herd will find itself in brown, barren fields, thirsty, matted, malnourished and unsettled. But if The Lord is your shepherd, He leads you in green pastures and beside still waters.
As we mentioned last time, sheep can’t find water or pasture without a shepherd. They have no sense of direction and wind up following another sheep, usually to a dirty, insect infested pothole filled with muddy water. Sheep will settle for less, that momentary satisfaction; they lack discernment and don’t know what’s good for them until the shepherd comes to their rescue.
And according to the professional shepherd, Phillip Keller,
… it is almost impossible for sheep to be made to lie down”.A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23; page 41
Here are the four requirements that must be met, in order for sheep to physically lie down –
- They must be free from all fear
- They must be free from friction with others of their kind
- They must be free from pests
- They must be free from feeling hungry
So, if our text says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” (which it does), then these four requirements have been met for the sheep to actually lie down for the shepherd. Let’s consider each one, briefly.
Free from all fear – Sheep are prey animals, remember? So they are constantly on guard for coyotes, bears and the like, which if they sense them, they will become agitated, restless, and easily panicked. They are defenseless and feeble and so their only choice is to run. That is why they stand up and are ready to run for their life at all times. It is the shepherd’s presence that allows them to lie down.
Free from friction with others of their kind – Within the flock there is a literal “butting” order, a rivalry where sheep stand up and defend their rights, where they actually challenge intruders or other aggressors. This constant jealousy makes the sheep edgy, tense and restless. There is a tension that comes when standing up for themselves, their rights and trying to get ahead. Again, the shepherd’s presence makes the difference for them. They are safe and accepted by him.
Freedom from pests and parasites – There are seasons where sheep are under constant attack from flies and ticks making it next to impossible for the sheep to lie down. Extra care is needed by these sheep who are “being bugged”. These all consuming distractions, “nose-flies”, demand the sheeps full attention and there is no way that sheep will lie down.
Free from finding food and hunger – Have you ever considered that most sheep countries are in dry, semi-arid areas of the globe? You’re not gonna find green pastures there. To find those lush, verdant grazing fields takes the skill of an experienced shepherd, who has planned and labored to get his flock there. For the good shepherd, a worn-out field, lacking vegetation does not allow for a sheep to eat, much less lie down. Hungry sheep are forever on their feet searching for food.
With these four requirements met, the Shepherd has released the sheep to be able to lie down in lush, green pastures, confident they are safe, healthy, defended, and satisfied.
Looking back at these four requirements for sheep to lie down, do you see any parallels with your life, your needs or behaviors?
How’s your “fear factor”? Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop? Stressed, feeling panicked and sometimes just ready to bolt?
How trapped have you become by trying to get ahead? By standing up for your rights and yielding to the rivalry?
What are your distractions that keep you from truly resting? What distractions are bugging you?
Have you settled for grazing on meaningless, empty fields that bring you no spiritual nutrition? Are you searching for food that satisfies?
The Good Shepherd provides the peace and the place for His sheep to lie down. He has made a place for them to lie down. The sheep know this, trust him and rest because of his presence with them.
He leads me beside still waters
Even though sheep thrive in dry climates, they still require water, for without it dehydration sets in, which effects the tissues and causes serious damage. Most of sheep’s water will come from either
- dew on the grass
- deep wells
Although the skilled shepherd will lead the flock to those streams, sheep can go for months without actually drinking from a stream. Why?
Streams in the desert are hard to find, yes, that’s one reason. But more interestingly, sheep are able to drink every day, if there is heavy dew on the grass.That water is enough to sustain them for weeks without coming to a well or stream. Sheep will graze just before dawn on drenched vegetation and become fully satisfied.
A fully satisfied sheep is happy and refreshed and will lie down to rest and ruminate.
This, again, is the shepherd’s job – to keep the sheep watered, satisfied and able to lie down, even if they are in a dry place. The shepherd knows where the next watering source is and allows for his sheep to find daily thirst quenching from the early morning dew until they reach their goal – beside still waters.
As His sheep, be encouraged, that even in the dry times, He has provided the early morning dew (first light prayer time) for you to find satisfaction. You can go for months on just those dew point – prayer times. Without them tho’, dehydration sets in and your Spirit shrivels up, causing you serious spiritual damage.
As His sheep, He is able to provide for each and every requirement that it takes for you to be at rest enough to lie down. He is the Good Shepherd and He cares for His sheep.
Ponder, won’t you, are you grazing in green pastures and beside still waters or have you been feeding on some barren hillside, drinking from dirty potholes of muddy water? The Good Shepherd will lead you if you chose to follow Him.
He will lead you to lie down in green pastures and drink beside still waters.
Let’s graze on that dew soaked meal each day.
- A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23; W. Phillip Keller; Zondervan Books; 1970, 2007